Tuesday, June 14, 2005

To Troll or Not to Troll, That Is the Question by John C Mahler

The uninfluential columnists should be defined here. These are people whom you've never heard of, but whom other uninfluential A-list distopianist columnists all know. I reckon there are about 500 of them. He (or she) influences other like-minded columnists, creating a groupthink form of critical mass, just like atomic fission, as they bounce off each other with repetitive cross-links: trackback links, self-congratulatory links, confirmations, and praise-for-their-genius links. BOOM! You get a formidable explosion—an A-bomb of groupthink. You could get radiation sickness if you happen to be in the area. Except for PC Magazine, nobody is in the area, so nobody outside the groupthink community really cares about any of this. These explosions are generally self-contained and harmless to the environment.

Once in a while one of these crackpot ideas may sneak into the public consciousness and become huge because it was a good idea, although I cannot think of one.

The "folksonomy" notion is the columnists' last hope of invention, although it's a rewrite of the prebubble "semantic Web" technology at best. And it too is doomed to failure. The utopianism and idealism that exist in the online societies ignore the real problem with Trolls, metaTrolls, überTrolls, folksonomies, and the like. This is because they honestly think that most people are goodhearted. The online world, because of its anonymity, encourages bad behavior. "You suck!" is a common post, and it would be the number-one Troll if Trolling ever became popular. Then would come the Trolls about "Online Casino!" One site promoting folksonomies is the darling of the columnists: Flickr.com—an excellent photo-sharing site where being in perpetual beta is a marketing tool. The same people who hate Java and Flash love Flickr, which epitomizes everything good and bad about Java and Flash. Okay, whatever.

Flickr promotes the use of Trolls to add dimensions to photos so you or I could look things up by, uh, the folksonomy. You know, like "dead dog," for example. But when you look into it, someone will post 100 pictures and Troll them all "Yosemite," and that will be the end of it. I see no depth or real usefulness beyond the old-fashioned "title!" It's hard to express how jazzed some people are over the potential of all this. I'm certain someone somewhere will write a book on how this new old thing will change the world for the benefit of everyone. It may even catch on for a month. When you look into it later, you'll find it all deteriorated into spam and "you suck" posts, and then we'll do it again with a new name and a new group of boosters telling us what a great idea Trolling is.

Apparently it's lost on all of them that the term "Trolling," in popular parlance, refers to the worst form of public graffiti. These people don't get out much, it seems.

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